Lucy and Saidhbh Raise Awareness in Tipperary on Refugee Rights

UNICEF Activism Training And Refugee Awareness Week

On Friday the 23rd of February 2018, we took part in UNICEF’s TY Activism training course in the Children’s Ombudsman in Dublin. It was a day long course, and it was such an amazing opportunity. Throughout the day, we learned all about the different issues that affect our world, from global warming, world wealth, human rights, sexual harassment, poverty and many more topics. We learnt different methods of thinking and organising, took part in games, listened to other people’s opinions in open debates and even had a chance to question the Children’s Ombudsman for Ireland. By the end of the day we had brainstormed and planned a hypothetical activism week in our school. What we then had to do was pick a topic we had an interest in, which for us was the refugee and migrant crisis, and put everything we’d learnt on how to be an activist and plan an activism and awareness week in our school. This week, Monday 30th April to Friday 4th May, we put our plan into action. After weeks and weeks of planning, we made a week that we are very proud of, and we hope managed to spread awareness for refugees. We struggled at first on what to do, and what would make the biggest impact and work most efficiently in our school environment.

To kick off our week, we encouraged the whole school to join Ureport. Ureport is a platform for youth's voices to be heard, when it comes to politics and voting. It gives all youth a chance to voice their opinions on important matters that impact our society. Surveys are regularly sent out to its users, and it encourages freedom of speech and works to involve our Youth with recognizing global issues. It is really easy to sign up and get involved, just head to their website, Ureport Ireland to find out how to join. We sent out an email to the whole school and put up posters around the school encouraging everybody to sign up and get involved.

We also made two large signs with facts about refugees and a list of activities going on throughout the week. We sent an attachment of a presentation we had made to all the religion teachers in our school, and asked them to show it to all 4th, 5th and 6th year religion classes. The presentation mainly revolved around a video of a young woman fleeing her bomb struck home in Syria, it follows her all the way through her journey to safety and brings to light the struggles these asylum seekers must go through every day. We felt it also breaks a lot of stereotypes on how we see refugees and shows us that not all refugees come from previous poverty, and many can speak fluent English.

We also went into two 1st year classes to give a presentation about the refugee crisis. Many people were surprised to learn that over half of Syrian refugees, around 2.6 million, are under the age of 18, and many haven’t been in education for years. We discussed with them what human rights they thought refugees and asylum seekers were being denied and discussed just how hard it is to actually gain refugee status. There was a lively discussion flowing in the class, which we encouraged. We finished off with a quick video and got loads of great feedback from the students and teachers.

Finally, on Friday lunch time we held a bake sale in the canteen and gave out black and orange ribbons with each baked good. The black and orange ribbons represent the life jackets refugees wear when crossing the Mediterranean. Often there can be up to 110 people on a life boat built for 20 people, resulting in masses of people dying at sea. Only 2% of refugees reach their destination safely, thousands must turn back to their war zone home, get seriously injured or die on their journey. As well as being physically injured, refugees will also be mentally scarred from everything they have witnessed and had to live through to find safety.

Our week was a huge success in school, we hope we've made people more aware of what's happening in Syria and the extent of the refugee crisis. Just because this week is over, it doesn't mean we will stop raising awareness for this important issue, and we hope to make this a yearly event in our school for many years to come.

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